The Livingston is a pattern inspired by an earlier wallpaper design, and gets its name from the home in which the antique document was found. It is said the wallpaper fragments were scraped off the walls of the Livingston manor house in Catskill, New York and mailed to the Birge Company. The original design was produced in the mid-nineteenth century and was most likely a wood block print. The pattern contains a landscape view enclosed within an elaborate scrolling framework which alternates with a pair of doves and a trophy of dairy farm implements. The M.H. Birge & Sons Company first produced this design around 1903 when a published illustration of the paper refers to it as Watteau. This name references the French painter Jean-Antoine Watteau, who is credited with inventing the genre of fêtes galantes, or scenes of bucolic and idyllic charm, which inspired the enclosed view. The design was then re-introduced by Birge in 1935, very possibly re-colored and renamed.

Landscape views first appeared in repeating wallpaper patterns in the arabesque designs of the late eighteenth century and continued to be popular through the nineteenth century. The early twentieth century witnessed a renewed interest in this genre during the Colonial Revival movement. The early views were frequently shown as floating scenes balanced along a central axis, then morphed into being totally enclosed within elaborate scrolling frameworks during the mid-nineteenth century, as seen in this design. Landscape views enclosed within elaborate floral medallions continued to be used in the early twentieth century.

The M.H. Birge & Sons Co. was founded in 1834 and was one of the largest and longest running American wallpaper manufacturers until the firm sold to a Canadian manufacturer in 1959.

Leave a Reply